Social networks, blogs, forums, media sharing and review sites are great for self-expression (and cat memes and videos) but posting material online can have consequences IRL.
Defamation is essentially a false, published statement that damages the reputation of an individual, group of people or a small business, or causes others to think less of them. And these sorts of posts can end up being very expensive. Just ask the student who was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in damages over a series of defamatory posts about a teacher at his former school. #awkward!
So what do you need to know about online defamation? Here’s our Top 5:
- A person can be defamed through any media – eg. in printed publications, online, photos, sound, gestures and even sign language.
- A key element of defamation is that the content was communicated to a third party, and the third party was able to read, hear or see the material. Generally, the more people who see the offending statement, the greater the probability of reputational harm.
- It is irrelevant whether the content was intended to deliberately affect the target’s reputation, or that you didn’t mean for your post to be shared outside of your immediate friend group.
- If you share someone else’s post (for instance, by “retweeting” a tweet or “sharing” a Facebook post), you can also be found guilty of defamation.
- There are several defences to defamation, including that the statement was true, or that it was an expression of an honest opinion.
So before you put someone on blast on Facebook or other social media sites, STOP, THINK and slowly BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD! The instant gratification you might gain, could have long term consequences.
If you are accused of social media defamation, and you’re unsure whether what you said was true, it’s probably wise to take down the offending post, and offer an apology. If you’re lucky, this might be enough to keep you out of Court.
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